Risen!

He is risen

Very early,

Sunday morn,

Grief rising up like a gathering storm.

Day-break,

Hearts ache,

As the weight of it all begins to dawn.

 

Thorns, nails,

Mournful wails,

Laid in a tomb that wasn’t His own,

Laden with spices,

We make our way,

Not even knowing who’ll roll back the stone.

 

Earth quake,

Guards shake,

Heavenly beings in dazzling white,

Our hearts pound with fear,

Too scared to draw near,

We bow to the ground at this dazzling sight!

 

“You needn’t fear!

He isn’t here!

“Why search for the Living among the dead?

Hurry, go!

Let everyone know –

That Jesus is risen, just as He said!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Give Up!

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Beautiful Agapanthus

 

For as the earth brings forth its sprouts and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations” – Isaiah 61:10-11

I’ve been praying and longing to see Revival in the UK for many years now.  Perhaps you’ve been praying for your nation too?  Or perhaps you’ve been praying for years to see someone come to faith.  If so, I want to encourage you today!

One morning, a few years back, I was talking to one of my daughters about how committed I am to praying for revival in this land.  Just before rushing out of the door to school, she looked at me, a little perplexed and said something along the lines of:

“Mum, this world is so awful.  I’m not sure that one person can make that much difference…”

(But more of that story later!)

When I inherited the garden in our current home, it was literally two strips of weedy,  unyielding earth.  The soil was full of stones.  The ‘garden’ had not plant nor flower, just hundreds of very deep rooted weeds.

The only thing it did have, was potential…it was a blank canvass really.

So, determined to have a garden, I began.  Digging, weeding, removing stones.  It was pain-staking, back-busting!  I tried adding sand into the heavy clay soil in order to improve the claggy, ‘stick-to-your-boots’ consistency.  I bought bags of rich compost and literally poured them into the beds, digging and turning the earth again and again, to try and provide a more habitable environment for plants and flowers.  The groundwork took time.

But eventually the condition of the soil improved.

Then came the long job of buying and trying – going to garden nurseries and coming home with car boots full of perennials and shrubs.  I remember placing the plants in the soil – and frankly, being a bit underwhelmed.  These puny little plants would just look so insignificant, so small in all that earth!  They didn’t make much impact.  They certainly didn’t look like the garden magazines I had been browsing through!

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Pretty depressing!

Was all this hard work ever going to be worth it?

Fortunately for me, my mum’s garden is full of flowers!  So much so, that she was able to give me clumps of Geranium and Sedum from her own beds.  Every now and then she’d pop round with a tub full of Iris or Day Lilly – and we’d dot them around as fillers.

All of this activity went on for several years.  Planting things.  Trying things.  Moving things.  If I’ve learned one thing about gardening – it’s this:  No pain, no gain.

But then suddenly…years down the line, you begin to see your garden taking shape.  Suddenly, there’s colour and form.  People start to notice: “Isn’t your garden looking lovely?”  But best of all –  you notice!  One warm summer’s evening, you sit outside,  sipping a mug of tea, realising that all your hard work is starting to pay off.  And you smile…because somehow, the fact that it took time, years even, makes it all the more rewarding.  I tended this garden!  I kept going year after year, even though – to start off with – nothing much seemed to change.

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Yes, it’s the same flower bed!

Looking back, all those years that I’ve spent tending my garden, have run parallel to the years that I’ve spent praying for this Nation.  Isn’t God great?  Don’t you just love the way He weaves the natural and the supernatural together to teach us things?   What a prophetic picture lies within all of this toil!

Because the thing is…whatever you sow into a garden, you’ll eventually reap.

Put in a Climbing Rose and come July, you’ll have Climbing Roses!  Plant a pot full of Daffodil and Tulip bulbs in September, and POP – there’s your first bit of early spring cheer!  Fill your low wall with Geraniums, and hey presto – Geraniums it is!

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Today I want to remind you of the wonderful principle that  God has set in motion.  Sowing and reaping.

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.  He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him!” – Psalm 126:5-6

I know that if you’ve sown seeds of prayer for your nation, or your loved one’s salvation – perhaps tears at times – then no matter how long, no matter how many years it takes, some day, one day…you will see your reward.

If you’ve been praying – particularly for revival or salvation –  and you’re on the verge of giving up…please don’t!   One fine day, when you least expect it, you’ll turn around and your garden will be filled with beautiful blooms!  And what a wondrous reward it will be – the fruit of all your labours!

Can I tell you the rest of the story about my daughter?   A few days later she came downstairs in the morning and said: “Oh by the way mum, I had a dream about you last night….”

“Go on,” I said, intrigued.

“You were trying to start a fire by rubbing sticks together,” she said.  “At first nothing was happening.  But you didn’t give up.  Then all of a sudden, there was a spark, and then the whole thing just burst into flame!”

My mouth was almost agog as she added:

“And I think it’s to do with you praying!”

So today, here’s God’s message to you (and me):  Keep going!  Don’t you dare give up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zacchaeus

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! – Psalm 32:1

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So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a Sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way…Luke 19:4

 

The streets of the city were crowded that day,

The Teacher was coming – He was heading this way.

My heart leapt within at the sound of His Name,

This man who healed lepers, the blind and the lame.

 

But the crowds all around me were blocking my view,

And try as I might, I just couldn’t push through.

Not much to be said for my stature – it’s true,

So I ended up right at the back of the queue!

 

Then ahead of the crowds in the distance, I see,

Down the long dusty road,

There’s a Sycamore Tree,

I was desperate to see Him,

So it had to be done.

I kicked up the dust and I started to run!

 

My robes snagged on branches as I scrambled up high,

And I hoped, against hope, that He wouldn’t pass by,

Still my heart skipped a beat when He stopped by that tree,

And He peered through the leaves,

Looking straight up at me!

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What would He say to a man such as me?

What was I doing here?

How could it be?

That this wonderful stranger should call me by name?

In that moment, I knew, I would not be the same.

 

The people were outraged- He was going to eat,

At the home of *Zacchaeus, the swindler, the cheat!

But whenever He spoke, all my pride fell apart,

And something was changed in the depths of my heart.

The tears started falling, my heart overflowed.

I would pay it all back, every penny I owed.

I would give it all gladly,

I would do anything,

For this wonderful Man,

For this beautiful King!

 

The love that He showed me,

The grace that He gave,

Swept over my being, like wave after wave,

What joy filled my soul, and what gladness within,

When the Son of God cleansed me,

From all of my sin.

 

 

  • Amazed to discover today that the meaning of the Hebrew name Zacchaeus means, “Clean, pure!”

 

 

Abundant!

 

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This morning, a well known image kept coming to mind.  It was that picture of a half filled glass of water, and that all important question….is the glass half full or half empty?

What do you think?

Well, before I’d even had time to ponder the answer, I sensed God’s smiling response:

“That question is completely irrelevant in my Kingdom!  When I fill a cup, it overflows!”

Ha!  Isn’t that wonderful?!

You have anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows! – Psalm 23:5

There are no half measures with God!  Nothing about Him is ever stingy or miserly or half hearted!  Everything about Him is abundant and lavish and overflowing!  What a joy!

I felt today that God wanted to remind me, and maybe some of you, of His absolute abundance!  In Him there is no lack.  He is great in might.  He is awesome in power, He is abundant in loving-kindness!  He really, really is a GREAT BIG GOD!

Feast your heart on a few of these ABUNDANT truths today – if necessary speak them out loud over your circumstances:

GREAT is the Lord and mighty in power.  His understanding has no limit – Psalm 147:5

But You O Lord, are a God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness – Psalm 86:15

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary and His understanding no one can fathom – Isaiah 40:28

Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgements and His ways are past finding out! – Romans 11:33

Your loving-kindness O God extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.  Your righteousness is like the mountains of God.  Your judgements are like a great deep – Psalm 36:5-6

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love for those who fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us – Psalm 103:11-13

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness! – Lamentations 3:22-23

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;  for His loving-kindness is everlasting – Psalm 118:1

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, and that you, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up with all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.  Amen – Ephesians 3:14-21

What an amazing God!

 

 

Alive!

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My four year old daughter Emily has an incredible imagination.  She spends hours creating imaginary worlds, using little animal figures such as Playmobil and Sylvanian Families.  She is also rather fond of a lovely set of Lion King characters that I found on ebay.

“Mum” she begs, “make Simba talk!”

So, somewhat reluctantly, I have to put on this really deep American voice and try to bring this inanimate, plastic Lion to life.

“Oh no!” I say, “There’s a big problem in the Pride-lands!”  I pause…not really too sure where this is going.

Emily looks at me with wide eyes.  She’s hanging on my every word and is desperate to find out what the problem is.

Shakily, I continue.  “You see…the waterhole has dried up.  And if we don’t get water soon… we’re going to die!”

Crikey.  Should I be that morbid with a four year old?

Emily doesn’t seem to mind at all.  She’s in the zone completely!  So we spend the next half hour racking our brains to try and come up with a solution.  And eventually we decide that the elephants are our best option.  They can suck some water up (from somewhere or other – minor detail) with their trunks and fill the water hole back up.  And all the while, of course, the evil Scar is trying to stop us at every turn.

For a moment, those plastic characters seem almost real.  But pretty soon, they go back in the toy box.

No matter how convincing my Simba voice is, or how entertaining my story, those characters will never, ever be real.  They’re just plastic.  Even Emily knows that.

And then, in Genesis, i read this:

“Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” – Gen 2:7

Hang on a minute!  Did you get that?  I mean, forget about trying to animate plastic lions… God moulded a man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and that pile of dust became a REAL PERSON!  A living, breathing, blinking, yawning, walking, talking human being!  It’s jaw-dropping!   We can become so familiar with the creation scriptures, that we forget to marvel at them!  No wonder the Psalmists say time and again “There is no one like the Lord our God!”

And then the really mind-blowing thing!  Right at the outset of things, way back in Genesis, God was already revealing His plan of salvation.  This was a foreshadowing of what was to come.  The same thing happens when we are born again.  God takes a person who is dead in their trespasses and sins – and breathes His very life into their spirit, so that they become a LIVING BEING!

Dead.  Stone cold on a slab.  No heartbeat.  Like a pile of dust.  We were all dust-men!   But then suddenly the breath of the Holy One began to rush into the hollow caverns of that dead old soul and BOOM!  Suddenly we have a pulse!  We’re alive!

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love, with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made is ALIVE together with Christ!  – Ephesians 2: 4-5

Wow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner, a Sinner and a Saviour

 

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The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise – Psalm 51:17

There are two stories in the New Testament which so wonderfully portray the dynamic power of forgiveness. Interestingly, they both share the same three elements: Dinner, a sinner and a Saviour.

Story number one takes place when a Pharisee named Simon invites Jesus round for a meal.  It’s not clear whether Simon is being genuinely hospitable, or whether he has an ulterior motive, but what we do discover later on, is that Simon fails to show Jesus the customary Jewish welcome of a kiss and a bowl of water for the washing of feet. As they are reclining at the table, things take an interesting turn. A woman with a jar of perfume and a bad reputation, gate-crashes the party.  She breaks open the alabaster jar of fragrance and starts to anoint Jesus’s feet. Weeping and crying, she dries His tear-stained feet with her hair, and kisses them again and again.  Talk about awkward moment!

Suddenly Simon gets all fidgety in his seat. Ha! If Jesus were truly a prophet, then surely He would have been able to discern what kind of woman this was. If Jesus were truly a prophet, then surely He would have this woman thrown out into the street.

But Jesus with x-ray-like vision, sees right into the depths of Simon’s soul.  And He begins to tell a story about two debtors.  One who owes a little, one who owes a lot.  Both of them receive good news- their debts have been cancelled by their Creditor.

“Now which of these two will love the most?”

“I suppose the one who has been forgiven the most,” Simon rightly answers.

Which leads us nicely onto story number two- the story of Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus is the chief tax collector in the Jericho region and let’s just say ‘popular’ is not his middle name. He takes what people owe…plus a little bit extra besides.

But he’s heard a rumour. Jesus is coming to town.  “I’ve gotta’ see him”, thinks Zacchaeus.  “I’ll do anything to see Him”.

But Zacchaeus is a little on the…err, little side.  As Jesus passes through Jericho, vast crowds press in around Him.  And try as he might, Zacchaeus cannot see above the crowds.

So what does he do?  Give up and go back to his mansion?  No!  He runs ahead of the crowd and climbs up into a Sycamore Tree!  Now this man was rich.  He probably had swag!  But nothing was going to stop him!

And Jesus stops right underneath that Sycamore Tree and peers up into the branches, right into the face of a man who is outwardly rich, but inwardly profoundly empty and says:

“Zacchaeus!”

Jesus knows his name. He knows all of our names.  “You’d better climb down because  I’m coming to your house today!”.  This time Jesus invites himself round for dinner!

And they talk.  And Jesus explains that He came to this earth to cancel the huge debt of sin that people like Zacchaeus, and the woman with the alabaster jar – people like me, and you- simply couldn’t pay.

And once again forgiveness has its transformative effect. Zacchaeus is a changed man.  Repentance flows from his heart just like the perfume that flowed from that alabaster jar.  Because the point of the story was not so much the broken jar, but rather a broken, sin-weary soul, kneeling at the feet of a merciful Saviour. And Zacchaeus promises to pay back anybody he’s ripped off four times over!

You see it’s true.  He who is forgiven much, loves much.

 

 

Giant Slayer!

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David was a shepherd, he was Jesse’s youngest son,

And although he was the smallest, he was God’s anointed one.

He had seven older brothers who were big and strong and smart

But the outer things don’t matter when God’s looking at your heart.

 

Now three of David’s brothers – the eldest of them all,

Were camped outside the city with the Armies of King Saul.

But David wasn’t old enough to join in with the battle,

He stayed at home in Bethlehem, attending to the cattle.

 

One day his father handed him a bag of grain and bread,

Take these to your brothers, bring back news of them he said.

So just as day was dawning, young David rose and went,

He ran to meet his brothers, with the food his father sent.

 

The Israelites came marching out with shouts and battle cries,

But as David followed after them, he got a HUGE surprise.

For marching round the valley, a giant of a man

Was challenging the Israelites “Come fight me – if you can!”

 

This Philistine was massive, he was over nine feet tall!

And the Israelites would tremble, every time they heard him call.

His spear was like a weaver’s beam, his armor weighed a ton!

“Is there no-one that would challenge me?” he boomed at everyone.

  

For forty days he taunted them, but no-one volunteered,

“You call yourselves an army, huh?” Goliath loudly jeered.

But David wasn’t frightened, as you’d probably suppose,

In fact this mouthy Philistine got right up David’s nose!

 

“Who is this heathen Philistine?” young David boldly called,

“He dares defy the armies of the true and living Lord?

What’s the prize for killing him?” He went and asked the others,

“Just go back home and feed the sheep” warned David’s older brothers.

 

King Saul heard the commotion, so he summoned David in,

“You’re just a lad, for goodness sakes, you’ll never EVER win!”

But David was determined, he was totally persuaded,

“The Lord will keep me safe”, he said, “I do not fight unaided”.

 

King Saul was flabbergasted but this kid was on a mission,

“Very well, young David, you may fight on one condition –

You must wear my finest armour from your head down to your toe.

And may the Lord watch over you, and bless you as you go!”

 

But David wasn’t used to wearing bronze from head to toe,

He could hardly move a muscle and he wasn’t good to go!

A shepherd’s stick, a pouch and sling were all that David took,

And five flat stones he gathered from the peaceful, babbling brook.

 

And when he neared the battle line, Goliath roared with laughter,

“I’ll eat you up for breakfast and I’ll still be hungry after!

Goliath was no gentleman, he didn’t mince his words,

“I’ll tear off all your flesh and then I’ll feed it to the birds!”

 

But David stood his ground, his faith was bigger than his foe,

“Listen up Goliath, ‘cos there’s something you should know!

You come at me with sword and spear and javelin, it’s true,

But in the name of God alone, I’m coming after you!”

 

Goliath moved in closer, he was ready to attack,

David ran to meet him; he let nothing hold him back.

He reached into his bag and popped a pebble in his sling!

And suddenly with lightning speed, he hurled it with a fling!

 

It smacked the mighty giant man, right between the eyes,

The stone sank in, the armies gasped in terror and surprise.

You could have heard a pin drop – as no one made a sound!

Then like a fallen tree, Goliath thundered to the ground!

 

The Philistines were terrified, they panicked and they fled!

They couldn’t quite believe it, their champion was dead!

A shepherd boy, had conquered, with a stone and with a prayer,

And with faith that moves a mountain, he became a giant slayer!